The Promise

A science fiction short story

Life is hard, that is what he was always told growing up. Waking up in a small cramped apartment, he knows life is hard. His place is a mess. His parents would be scolding him at this moment, but then again he is also a grown man twenty nine years young. Almost thirty? Yes, his birthday happens to be next week. Friends ask him what he would like? He always tells them some top of the line Android to clean up his small apartment. People laugh and call him lazy… but that is life. He doesn't deny it. He is a bit of a beach bum. Riding the waves all day seems like paradise, but instead, he is riding his ass on a cramped technical terror, underneath the city heading to his lovely destination where he gets to stare at screens and does bitch work for “highly educated folks.” Naturally, they look at him condescendingly at every turn. Since he is not “special” or “part of that world.” His feet have always been firmly planted in the middling world. Mom and Dad were the “middling sort” worked hard, for the money, spoiled him rotten, but somehow he still always felt they never loved him. Everyone has told him that is ridiculous of course his parents loved him? It is illegal to not love your child. 

The promise, he needs to remember the promise. Yes, society is funny like that. Apparently, a few years before he was born things were different. Parents were allowed to sternly disciplined their children. It leads to punishments that were real, harsh, and savage. Those were dark times… but by the time he was born he entered the era of the “Promise.” Essentially it is almost seen a children’s rights movement where every parent has to make a signed and recorded promise to the governing bodies, that they will love their child. Any violation of this “promise’ would lead to deportation to the outer lands… This is a fate that would be tantamount to death. The outer lands are a very frightening wasteland, the remains of a once prosperous and beautiful city which were destroyed during a horrible war. Not many have been exiled to the outer lands but those who have, they have suffered greatly. He shudders to think of his mom and dad stranded in that darkness being hunted by whatever crazed things are out there, but somehow at the same time, he knows this is leverage. This is why they can’t say shit to him. This is why despite his rampant drug use and doing whatever he wants even at this age if they even lay a finger on him he knows they will come for him. He feels that whoever created this Promise system was, in fact, a genius, and whoever it deserves to be worshiped as a Deity. This is why on this very day he has decided to go over visit mom and dad, chat a little, reminisce and perhaps ask for another 5,000 dollar loan, even though he works a job like everyone else he finds that he has more needs than everyone else. The need to get high is very powerful; he needs to get high just to put up with the banality of his life this hellhole of a situation he has. He is married to his job; other women find him unnerving (maybe because he talks to himself often) or maybe because of the way he leers at them constantly drooling like a slob. He has this horrible affliction; he wants to screw, but the women don’t seem to want to screw him. This is because he does not have the money to provide because in this world that is all that matter the size of a man’s wallet. Whatever happened to feminism? As he ponders this last thought, the door finally opens and he is face to face with his future. There he stands, pale flesh, balding, and overweight, the perfect portrait of someone who has lost all faith. His eyes have a distant look, and he looks none too happy to be staring back at him from the doorway.

“Oh Hello son, how are you?”

He tries desperately to feign a smile to appear warm, especially because he is outside and any signs of paternal disdain or distance can be seen as a violation of the Promise.

“I am ok Dad, may I come in,”

His father’s smile broadens, the prospect of moving the conversation inside way from prying eyes is something he is looking forward to.

“But of course come in.”

He walks through nervous but knowing what he needs to do. The house is a mess as usual, and now inside the house, his father’s demeanor takes on a more serious look.

“Alright listen here son, let’s cut this crap. How much do you want?”

The ferocity in his tone took him by surprise, but it is strange to see the old man cutting to chase just like that. Usually, this would be more a song and dance routine, he would put a little and everything and then ask to see the wallet, but his father is very terse about the whole thing.

“Look, son, you don’t call, you don’t e-mail, and you rarely stop by unless you want something. This is just the reality. The other sad reality is that because of this “Promise” I have to give you this hush money, otherwise..”

His voice seems to trail away, and now the hot anger upon his face is cooling considerably taking on the air of melancholy.

“Look, Dad, I need $5,000, they have been cutting back on our pay and things have been getting more expensive and..”

He can see the anger coming back his father’s face, but it was not so much as a look of hatred as it was disgust and even revulsion. Did his father not love him?

The old man then took a handful of cash out of his wallet practically tossing it at his face, leaving him stunned and a bit hurt, he has never been treated in such a fashion no matter how much he had fucked up in the past.

“That is everything I have son, you have bled me dry… and I have no choice because your mother and I promised… yes, a promise…”

His voice now starts to soften again, and he thought he could see tears in his eyes. Without saying another word, he picks up the money and nods to his father.

As he walked out closing the door behind him, he heard a blood-curdling scream and a gunshot.

He runs inside the house and the lying in a pool of his blood, eyes staring back at him was his father. His mother is sobbing over his father's body, her brilliant blue eyes full of tears, she was in so much pain.

“ I hope you are happy…. I hope you, all of you spoiled rotten brats are happy.” We can’t take this shit anymore; we really can’t fake the love anymore. The joy of parenthood has been taking away from us by Tyrants!”

All he could do was stare at her and then look at the body of his father dead before him.

He could not muster any other words… he could not bring himself to apologize; God damn it why she was like this?

“ Mom, I…”

He wanted to tell her to go away and die, but at this moment she may very well take this in a very literal fashion. He continues to stare into his father’s lifeless eyes… there is his future; there is it is dead because of the Promise. He so desperately wanted to get high at this moment so desperately needed to get away from this…..

He runs out clutching his money tightly, cursing everyone and everything. The system sucks. This is why he need to be high every day because life has become a disaster, life has become a nightmare. He runs around the block twice, three times, seeking mental clarity. Seeking some redemption and he knows, in this case, there is none. All he could do is think about his father, who took his life because he no longer loved him and he knew that to admit this it would be breaking the law. This would lead to exile into the outlands. He continues to run into the darkness needing to escape this world; the money seems so filthy now, none of this seems right.

That night he went back to his apartment. It was oddly cold, and there was a figure standing in the darkness.

“ Who are you?”

He calls out trembling to the figure in the darkness, the figure simply stands there quietly and observing him.

“ I was once you, but now I am nothing more than a distant memory.”

Trembling he steps forward into the darkness only there was nothing there.

He opens a small bag and takes a needle to his veins… he needs to calm the dream. The last high was the worst one yet never before has he had such an intense and lucid nightmare, his father killing himself violently, all because he would rather die than love him. This same nightmare has been happening for three weeks, day in and day out he can see his father dying over and over again. However, he knows what happened, and he still could not get over it…

Three weeks ago, music pulsing in a night club, alcohol running through his veins he received a very sobering phone call. A voice from the other side very officially and without a trace of emotion telling him what had transpired earlier that day. A voice is informing him that they received a lengthy letter, signed by his parents in this letter they denounced him and said that they don’t care about the Promise, that their son is nothing more than a worthless drug addict. 

The words hurt, like a knife especially when the sentence was official. His parents have been exiled to the outer lands.

Alberto Pupo
Alberto Pupo

Born and raised in Miami Florida but currently residing in Frederick Maryland with my wife, three kids, and a monster of a Black Lab. I am an author who has released 6 books two are fiction.

The latest is Time Trigger available on Amazon/

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The Promise